Last week I was in Atlanta for a conference. If you have ever been to the Atlanta Airport you know the steep escalators that take you from ground level down to the Amtrak train to transport you to the correct terminal. The three escalators are long and steep (I’m not certain this picture is the Atlanta airport but it is the right idea.) There is no way to avoid them and get to your destination.
Now I understand proper escalator etiquette to be the following: if you are riding the escalator in a a stand still position, meaning you are not walking up or down but letting it take you all on its own, then you are to stand to the right so that people may pass by on the left. But in general, from my observation at least, at the airport most people tend to ride the escalator without attempting to walk with their luggage.
So there I was on the escalator, on time for my flight, not in a rush, standing to the right with my roll-away carry-on and my purse, following what I understand to be proper procedure. Now mind you, said escalators are steep and pretty narrow. So there is not a lot of room for “passing”, although I have seen it awkwardly done. About half way down the escalator ride I began to notice the man directly behind me yelling. As I was pondering what I was going to eat in about 20 minutes (and which bathroom I would pump in) I paid no real attention to whom he was calling to or what he was saying. I did, however, take note as he grew louder and louder.
Finally, out of curiosity I slowly turned around to make it seem as though I was simply looking around and not directly at him, when I noticed that he was not yelling TO someone below but AT me — to move. He was actually saying, “Come on. Come on. Come on! COME ON! Did you see what I did there? Can you hear his increasing aggravation?
By the time I realized what was happening we were seconds from the bottom, but sure enough he sped by rushing to the same Train I was heading to (one on which I would board and ride alongside of him). But as he ran past me I took note of the scene he was determined to cause. He had 4 bags hanging over his shoulders, worn both across his chest and back while alternating between right and left sides – which of course bounced around hitting him and others as he ran to the train frantically. It was quite a scene, to say the least.
I chuckled, only on the inside I promise, because I felt like in that moment God gifted me with me a quick glimpse of what he sees when he looks at me. Arms flailing, bags rocking back and forth, yelling at people to move, all while speeding through to get to the next destination. Okay, so not a literal image (I don’t think I have ever done that exactly). But more of a figurative image of my fast-paced, rushed, chaotic, and way too busy life.
You know what I’m talking about, the treadmill that never ends . . . from meetings to sermon writing to feedings to pumping to driving to cooking, cleaning, laundry, bath time, bed time, grocery shopping, phone calls, . . . more meetings, lunch meetings, evening meetings, reading and studying, checking email, flying to conferences . . . cooking, cleaning, laundry, bath time, bed time, grocery shopping, phone calls, email . . . treadmill. The one hour that remains at the end of the day, to sit down and breath, seems to get shorter and shorter while the list of “to do” items gets longer and longer. If I just fold this last batch of laundry . . . OR if I only make this one final phone call . . . Oooh ooh just one more Facebook post. Seriously?!?!?!?! When will I stop?
All of the sudden this man’s bags banging around out of control became representations of my priorities in life: my family, my marriage, my ministry, my home – my faith. And his desperate plea “Come on” seemed to echo my cry to God, “Come on! Help me!” So I chuckled. Because I couldn’t get mad or annoyed due to the fact that he was quite a sight. I mean, for real, he looked ridiculous. And everyone seemed to know it but him.
This is so often the case isn’t? Everyone can see it but the one in the middle of it; the one caught up in the chaos, sprinting through the crowd with 14 bags in tow, flying every where. Since I am self-identifying as the “man with all the bags flopping about” in this scenario, I suppose I am acknowledging maybe I need to stop to see what others see. Or maybe even more so to ask, “God, what do you see?”
I am pretty sure that now I can see at least one thing clearly. God has been asking me to stop for awhile. To stop and listen. To be still. To “chillax” as my husband loves to say. God has been pleading with me to slow down, nudging me to refuel more often, and even whispering to let go of a few things. But even more amazingly He has been loving me and showering me with grace as I ignore his every attempt. As I run right by Him, speeding onto the next train that I have to hop on, to board the next plane I must catch, in order to arrive at the next destination, to make the next meeting, to get to the next . . . “slow down” interrupts my race through the visual of this man and his many bags. The voice of God seems obvious, “Be Still and Know that I am God.” It stuns my soul and forces me to a sudden halt.
Because even more importantly than losing sight of my own busyness and chaotic treadmill of a life, I am now imagining the people that God has placed in my life, whom I have sped right by. I am thinking about the missed opportunities. I am reflecting back on the conversations where I am only half present because I am already planning out the next thing. I am wandering what the ripple effect of my busyness is with my daughters, my husband, my friends – in all my relationships.
You see, I have often considered multitasking a gift (and it can be) but I am now realizing the chaos it can bring if we aren’t careful about what we carry and how we do it. Or better said like this: am I multitasking to prove I can do it or because God has actually asked me to do it? Is everything I am aiming to do God inspired? And am I doing it with His help or on my own?
Because I can’t get off the treadmill. The treadmill is life. And I can’t put down any of the bags. They are my family, my faith, my church. I can’t miss the train or the plane because they are my ministry. Because I know this to be true I have stayed aboard with all my bags . . . endlessly running.
Again, His voice, “Be still and Know that I am God.” In other words, I got this. Now be quiet and pay attention to who I am. Remember, there is speed adjustment on your treadmill. And wait, there is even a stop button. Slow down, let me take over for awhile. I can even carry a bag or two all on my own. As a matter of fact, I have the power to make the train pause, the plane take off later, or even change the destination.
Your ministry? That is my church and those are my people. I love them even more than you do. Your children? I created them. They are mine even more than they are yours. Your marriage? It means more to me than it even does to you. It is MY gift to you. I got this. Breathe. Slow down. Be still.
So Truth struck me! And, yes it began with a man on the escalator almost pushing me over to get by while yelling at me, “Come on” and billowing through the crowd, bags flying in multiple directions, to get to the train. This image of chaos revealed to me how out of control things get when we hold on to everything and some how think we can multitask better than God! This moment spoke to my soul about what happens when I make it about me and my strength instead of about Him and his strength.
God is NOT telling me to quit my ministry, to put my kids aside, to forget about my marriage, or to let go of my faith – he is simply asking me to relinquish control so that he can step in and help me balance it all. He is trying to give me more grace, each day.
He is letting me know it is okay to slow down. He is reminding me that the treadmill exasperates me only when I refuse to let him take over, and instead attempt to run full speed ahead on my own. It is not always about taking on too much. Sometimes it is simply the way we take it on, the strength we use to handle it, and the manner in which we approach it.
For me, riding the escalator calmly with plenty of time to catch my flight, all while contemplating my next meal, is a much more attractive image than the contrary (see above illustration of man with flailing arms and bouncing bags). But it means I have to be intentional about staying calm, being quiet, sitting still . . . listening to God. Oh yeah, and the “ever-easy” part of it — letting God take over once in awhile so that I can rest. This allows me to keep all my bags in place while I calmly ride the escalator to my next destination. I get to stay on the treadmill of life, knowing that from time to time I can take a break because God will take care of things. After all, they are His things – all of them.
Be still. Because I am God. And I got this. That is just who I am.